Cane harvesters who previously worked with the defunct Rose Hall Estate and are now attached to the Blairmont Estate have downed tools for the past two days.
They are demanding a pre-arranged pay rate for the short cane they are being ordered to cut. The workers have since accused management of discriminating against them, and have threatened to request severance payment if working conditions are not improved.
Upon closure of the Rose Hall Estate 15 months ago, 120 of the workers were retained and sent to the Blairmont Estate. To date, only 76 of them remain on the job. The workers from 6P Gang say they are being treated unfairly.
On Wednesday, they claimed that the cane they are asked to harvest is thin and short, and as such, they cannot get the weight they should get. In light of this, they are demanding compensation with respect to obstacles in the field.
They are requesting that the compensation bring them to the equivalent of 2.5 tonnes per worker, since the cane they are required to harvest cannot give them that.
One of the workers, Kurt Kaiyub, told Guyana Times that they were given a larger portion of work to complete on Monday, but they have since refused to do it.
“The amount of cane we have to cut, we will not make the tonnage per man as we cater we should make. The previous week we worked six days, and none of the workers make fifteen tonnes,” he explained.
Management has not given in to the workers’ request and has suggested alternative work. However, the workers are arguing that the alternative work is unreasonable, and they cannot complete the required task, hence they will earn less.
The workers have taken their concerns to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Regional Representative, Harvey Tambron.
In an invited comment, Tambron told this publication that the issue is not new. “The workers are demanding that there be adequate transportation from where they are being picked up to the work site and back home. This should be efficient, efficient in the sense that it must not be any less favourable than when they were working at Rose Hall.”
Meanwhile, workers walked out of a meeting between them and the management of Blairmont after management refused to provide transportation for those workers who have to cross the Berbice River Bridge. In fact, according to the workers, when they boarded the lorry which took them to work, they were taken to Blairmont, and made to wait for several hours.
“There is no proper treatment there for us. All we are receiving every morning is pressure, but we bear it up to work for our family. It now get overbearing. Yesterday [Wednesday] we had an issue in there… we deserve more payment for the cane because it is short; it is about four feet tall,” one worker explained while noting that the issue was communicated to the Foreman.
They were then told that the Estate has a policy of not paying extra for obstacles in the fields. The workers then asked for transportation to take them home, but were put on a lorry which did not move until after several hours.
“Are they trying to frustrate us to leave the work? If that is it, please, I want my severance”, one worker stated. Other workers also called for severance pay.
A meeting is expected to be held with the workers today at the Union’s New Amsterdam office.